Leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers.com will cover many of the top prospects at their respective positions. Our latest feature is on one of the top defensive players in the country, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.**Heading into the 2009 college football season, if you didn't know about Nebraska senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, you surely left the season with a greater understanding of his talents and the correct pronunciation of his name (En-dom-ah-ken Soo).
How could you not?
Suh was everywhere, and could be seen hoisting hardware at end of the season award ceremonies, dominating opposing linemen in his final bowl game and continuing to impress with a successful showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. His name has been on the tip of every football fan's tongue this offseason and for good reason.
In just a matter of time, Suh expects to be on the tip of Roger Goodell's tongue as one of the top draft selections announced by the NFL's commissioner at the 2010 NFL Draft.
Whether or not he's selected first is still up in the air, but experts have thrown out Suh's name along with Oklahoma teammates quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as potential top picks. Knowing this, Suh has given his best effort to show the world that he's worthy of being the top selection.
Throughout the draft process, Suh has been compared often to McCoy as the two finished 2009 as the best defensive linemen in not just the Big-12 conference, but the country.
"I don't think it's a rivalry," Suh said at the Combine. "We're definitely competitive with each other. But no, we're definitely good friends off the field."
In comparing the two top defensive linemen in this year's draft, experts have pointed out McCoy's pass rushing ability to be greater than Suh's, but that assessment isn't backed up by Suh, the nation's Player of the Year according to the Associated Press.
"We played two different defenses, in my opinion," Suh said. "He had the freedom to penetrate. I was more or less in the scheme of reading and playing through my man and then getting to the ball and disengaging. If I were to be in that same scheme as him or vice versa, I think it would be total opposites as it is right now."
Although Suh and McCoy's relationship has grown leading up to the draft, the former Cornhusker still wants to hear his named called first.
"I'd be happy for him. But I'd definitely be disappointed with myself not getting (picked first)," Suh explained. "I'm a competitor. I want to be No. 1. So that's what I'm going to strive for."
Suh was almost No. 1, as in college football's Heisman Trophy winner, but finished fourth in the vote. Still, the 6-4, 307-pound lineman earned quite a reputation after he totaled 85 tackles (24-for-loss), 12 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery in 2009.
"It wasn't a focus of mine. I really didn't think of it much. But when it came along, embraced it and really just took joy to it," Suh said of being named a Heisman finalist. "But it wasn't my main focus. My focus at Nebraska was to help my team win, and I think I helped them a fair amount, but not enough because we weren't 14-0."
The Cornhuskers finished the year 10-4 and closed things out in style with a 33-0 dominating win over the Arizona Wildcats in the Holiday Bowl. It was just a lasting highlight of the season for Suh, more important to him than the Big-12 Championship game, when he almost single-handedly foiled Texas' chances for a BCS Championship.
Despite coming up short against the Longhorns, Suh recorded 12 tackles, (seven-for-loss) and 4.5 sacks on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. Somehow, it wasn't a school record, but it certainly put Suh on the map for all fans outside of Nebraska to see.
In Suh's own estimation, the Arizona game will stick with him much longer than his game against the Longhorns.
"I had so many tackles and so many sacks that Texas game, but then I turned around at the bowl game I had three tackles and one for loss, and we killed that team, 33-0. Which would I prefer? 33-0, of course, because we're winning," Suh said. "That's what I look at. That's how I judge my game, how well I did. I did everything I was supposed to do in that game, and we won, 33-0. Our offense did their part. Our defense did their part. Our special teams did their part."
It's with that attitude Suh plans to endear himself to a new city with new fans who can learn all about him.
"I think I laid a great foundation with the way I played and the way I helped Nebraska. I wasn't the only one, and I won't take full credit for helping Nebraska get back. I think I was a big piece of that and I definitely feel that I laid it all on the line and put everything out there, and that's what I plan to do. So if that's the type of guy that you want, then why not take me?"